Episcopal Doublethink and An Irony of History

Episcopal Doublethink

Bishop Fitzsimmons had his way. The tabernacle has been relegated to its squalid brick pedestal. His mercenaries had earned their pay. Thus were the people of Christ the King parish induced to accept the new "godly order" devised by Bishop Sullivan, and set forth with the approval of his diocesan commissions. Then, having destroyed the ethos and harmony of a flourishing parish, a diocesan spokesman issued a statement which, I am convinced, can not be rivaled within the pages of Nineteen Eighty-Four as an example of "doublethink":

The statement said the diocese hoped the changes, approved by diocesan building and liturgical councils, "will bring a new sense of unity, understanding and purpose among the members of Christ the King congregation" (Kansas City Star, 27 April 1981).

An Irony of History

But the story does not end quite here with total victory for Bishop Sullivan. He was not able to sit down with Bishop Fitzsimmons for a refreshing cocktail, after exchanging warm handshakes and mutually congratulatory smiles. No, Bishop Sullivan was not able to say: "Well, we've done it at last! There's not a tabernacle on a high altar in the entire diocese!" Bishop Sullivan was denied that satisfaction, and the story ends with a victory for Christ the King.

A few days later another bishop re-dedicated a church in Kansas City, and on the center of the magnificent high altar of that church there reposes a splendid tabernacle. The church in question is the cathedral-like structure of St. Vincent de Paul, among the most beautiful Catholic churches in America. It had been purchased by the Society of St. Pius X, and on Sunday, May 10th, Archbishop Lefebvre had re-dedicated it before a standing-room only congregation. This congregation included hundreds of people from Christ the King parish. Many of them now worship there each Sunday, and more have joined them since. The bitterest blow for Bishop Sullivan was the fact that the church had been purchased from him. He had not sold it to the Society; he had vowed that "those people" would never get it, but he quite happily sold it to a Protestant sect for a nominal sum -and this sect sold it to the Society. Thus, traditional Catholics of Kansas City who wish to worship in a church where the tabernacle still occupies a place of honor can still do so despite Bishop Sullivan and thanks to Archbishop Lefebvre. And which of these bishops, I wonder, is a "rebel" in the eyes of God? One is hell-bent on overthrowing the traditions established over two thousand years in the Church's history, the other dedicated to upholding or restoring them. The one professes loyalty to the Pope, but allows those who insult the Pope and repudiate Catholic teaching to preach in his diocese. The other upholds all the defined teaching of the Church on faith and morals, and whose loyalty to the Pope is such that he is willing to expel from his Society any priest who refuses to pray for the Holy Father.

There are in the Church at present two irreconcilable viewpoints locked in conflict: one of them must eventually prevail. There are those best described by the name "Conciliar Church", aptly symbolized by their vandalism in the sanctuary at Christ the King. There are those best described as "Traditionalists", aptly symbolized by the dignified sanctuary at St. Vincent's. It seems, at the moment, that the latter are an insignificant minority with no hope of prevailing-----but this appeared to be the case during the Arian crisis. There seemed no possibility that the beliefs upheld by the hunted, despised, and excommunicated Athanasius could ever prevail against the universally triumphant Arianism. But the weak Pope Liberius died; under his successors the true faith was restored, and Athanasius was vindicated. History has a way of repeating itself-----it is doing so already at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, Kansas City!

Before examining legislation concerning the siting of the tabernacle which has appeared since the Second Vatican Council, it will be useful to examine the subject within the context of Tradition. Furthermore, the question of the sitting of the tabernacle cannot be considered in isolation from that of Mass facing the people. It is often argued that as Mass must now be celebrated facing the people, the tabernacle must be removed from the altar. The necessity for a celebration facing the people, versus populum, will be considered first. This subject, and that of the tabernacle, are dealt with in considerable detail in my book Pope Paul's New Mass. Full documentation is provided there for every claim made in this pamphlet. I will do no more here than state the facts as simply as possible, and refer those wanting more detail to my book.

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